The exhibition titled “Black spring. On Wrocław’s independent music scene of the 1980s” is devoted to the emotions triggered by living in repressive conditions determined by the sociopolitical system. Although resulting from anxiety, these emotions also expressed attempts to look for individual potential in confronting the reality. Set in the 1980s, the starting point for the presentation is music made in Wrocław.
The local music scene at that time was heterogeneous. Although its origins date back to the late 1970s, when the first punk-rock bands were set up, the greatest variety of styles (punk, reggae, new wave), experiments and actions combining music and art emerged in the following decade. This was when a live culture was born at the intersection of different genres, which resulted in the emergence of an alternative milieu that became a characteristic element of the final years of communism in Poland.
The situation existing after 1981 – the political events as well as social and cultural unrest – translated into a crystallization of alternative actions that were characterised by distrust of the status quo and defiance of the official institutions. Art and music turned into an energy which brought people together, created bonds and manifested emancipation and rebellion.
Wrocław’s independent music scene of the 1980s is a phenomenon whose potential has not been fully used and researched yet. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is the fact that it is difficult to label all the music styles that made it up and the interdisciplinary character of actions, which were often situated in the world of the visual arts. Another factor contributing to its “invisibility” in public awareness is the lack of records documenting the functioning of artists at that time.
The exhibition features archival materials, photographic documentation, audio and video recordings of the most important bands and artists of the time. They are juxtaposed with works by visual artists who debuted and developed their practice in this decade as well as those who represent the younger generation. An important section of the presentation comprises objects from the collection of Wrocław Contemporary Museum and the Lower Silesian Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts in Wrocław.
Music is an excellent pretext for outlining the history of Poland at a time of abrupt political transformations – from Solidarity’s carnival of freedom, to the period of the martial law that forced activists to go under the ground, to the process of formally changing the political system. All these stages had crucial impact on the rhythm of artistic life and the choices made by those artists who boycotted any form of official authority and became unprecendentedly consolidated in independent actions and defiance, which ultimately assumed the form of carnival. Many artistic actions at that time emerged at the intersection of music and the visual arts, while music itself became a manifestation of the young generation’s rebellion.
The exhibition thoroughly examines the 1980s and the relations between music and art in this period. It is an excellent opportunity to discover the alternative artistic and cultural movements in Wrocław at that time.
From today’s point of view it is important to acknowledge this “energetic form” and think about the role of counterculture in creating reality and the extent to which anarchic gestures, defiance and ideas are redefined when confronted with the system, the economic situation or simply the passing time.
The title of the exhibition refers to a poem by Antoni Słonimski, which dispels the myths surrounding Poland’s regaining of independence in 1918. Although its message is deeply pacifist and humanist, “Black Spring” is not devoid of revolutionary visions. Vitality and hope are combined in it with pessimism and bitterness. This duality is highlighted by the title in the form of an oxymoron. In the context of the exhibition, this phrase acquires peculiar significance. Its ambiguity reflects the mood of the 1980s, a decade teeming with contradictory emotions: from anxiety and powerlessness, to conspiracy and rebellion, to a carnivalesque atmosphere. “Black spring” is also a paraphrase of “no future” – a slogan repeated by representatives of the punk subculture.
Media patronage: Magazyn Szum, Rita Baum, Gazeta Wrocławska, Odra, TVP3 Wrocław, Radio Wrocław, Radio RAM